After Apple controversially eliminated the headphone jack from its iPhones back in 2016, many saw it as a sign heralding the transition into a fully wireless future, and it was probably no coincidence that this move came the same year that Apple introduced its original AirPods.
This led to no small amount of speculation that Apple could someday look to include AirPods in the box with newer iPhones, particularly higher-end models, but of course that never happened at the time. Instead, Apple simply created a Lightning-equipped version of its wired EarPods, and included those in the box along with a 3.5mm to Lightning adapter for other headphones. Meanwhile, demand for Apple’s AirPods skyrocketed, and while more cynical onlookers blamed that on the demise of the 3.5mm headphone port encouraging people to go wireless, it seems more likely that the AirPods were just that attractive of a solution by themselves.
Apple stopped including the 3.5mm adapter two years later with the 2018 iPhone lineup, assuming that most users had already moved to AirPods or other wireless headphones at that point, and those relatively few that wanted to stick with wires — and not simply use the included EarPods — could purchase the Lightning to 3.5mm adapter on their own.
If a new rumour from DigiTimes is to be believed, however, it now looks like Apple is at least considering bundling AirPods with new iPhone models next year. MacRumors shared the report, where analysts speaking with the supply chain have said that several smartphone vendors are considering upping the game by including wireless earphones as standard equipment.
Smartphone vendors including Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi are looking to bundle their new models with TWS earbuds next year.DigiTimes report
“TWS” or “truly wireless” earbuds of course include Apple’s AirPods, but also competing earphones like Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, and it’s easy to see how rival Samsung might try to get a leg up on Apple by including those, which are otherwise considerably less popular than AirPods. This would have Apple at least pondering what it might want to do in response, if anything.
As MacRumors notes, however, DigiTimes has a hit-and-miss track record, and at this point the rumours only say that Apple is “considering” the move, which doesn’t really say much. It’s easy to take this one with a healthy dose of salt, since Apple’s AirPods aren’t exactly inexpensive — starting at $159 with the standard non-wireless charging case — plus Apple has had no problems whatsoever selling AirPods, which basically dominate the true wireless headphone industry, and are expected to sell 60 million by the end of this year alone, and Apple has recently doubled production of its newest AirPods Pro.
By contrast, Apple’s Lightning-equipped wired EarPods retail for $29 on Apple’s website, and likely cost a fraction of that to manufacture. So it’s hard to see how Apple could justify including actual AirPods in with the iPhone without significantly increasing the price.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that the report only talks about true wireless earbuds in general terms, and not AirPods specifically, so it’s not impossible that Apple could be considering creating a more basic version of its wireless earbuds — something like “AirPods Lite” — that could be included in the box at a much lower cost. Still, it’s difficult to imagine how Apple could do this without compromising the quality of its AirPods technology and impacting the perception of, and demand for, its actual standalone AirPods and AirPods Pro, both of which currently feel like much more premium products.
If this were to happen, however, and that’s a big IF, it’s almost certain that only Apple’s higher-end “Pro” iPhone models would see wireless earbuds included, with the standard “iPhone 12” likely including the same EarPods that we find in the boxes today. This would be similar to what Apple did this year with the upgraded 18-watt charging adapter and USB-C to Lightning cable, which is also only included with the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.